Dodge Motorsports Teleconference Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2005 Brickyard Recap, Watkins Glen Advance TRAVIS KVAPIL (No. 77 Kodak/Jasper Dodge Charger) NOTE: Kvapil, a 29-year-old Raybestos Rookie of the Year contender from Janesville, Wis., will...
Dodge Motorsports Teleconference
Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2005
Brickyard Recap, Watkins Glen Advance
TRAVIS KVAPIL (No. 77 Kodak/Jasper Dodge Charger)
NOTE: Kvapil, a 29-year-old Raybestos Rookie of the Year contender from Janesville, Wis., will be making his first Cup start at Watkins Glen on Sunday. Kvapil currently ranks second in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year race. He's been the highest finishing rookie six times this season with a career-best finish of seventh at Bristol on April 3. Kvapil, ranked 33rd in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Standings, trails Kyle Busch 262-211 in the rookie standings heading into the 22nd race of the season. Dodge drivers have won the past two rookies titles with Jamie McMurray in 2003 and Kasey Kahne last season.
OPENING COMMENTS "In recapping Indy, we kinda struggled all weekend long and I started that off with the second lap of practice. I got into the wall and damaged the car up pretty good. The guys had to spend quite a bit of time repairing the car and getting it back out there. Once we did get back out there we were only able to run 10-12 laps in practice. We just ran short of time. We were kinda guessing where we needed to be for qualifying and with the impound rules we were going to be stuck with what we had. We did a handful of things right before qualifying to point us in the right direction. Really we just overshot it quite a bit. We qualified poorly. The car was extremely loose qualifying. Once we got the green flag it didn't get any better. It was really loose in the race. We ended up getting a lap down 20 or 30 laps into the run. We kept working hard and got our lap back and about the time we got it to where we were pretty decent we made a pit stop and it broke a rear axle leaving pit road. We had to go behind pit wall and repair that. I was pretty pleased with how well my guys did making changes on the car. We changed a lot of things that obviously we don't normally do on a typical pit stop, but we were able to get running pretty decent. About the time we were going to start battling for positions, we had another problem and we couldn't overcome that. It was my first time at Indy, and I had a good time. It's a really neat racetrack. There's big excitement there. You can feel it in the air, and it was just a neat deal.
"Looking ahead to The Glen, it's another track I'm going to for the first time. Really I have very limited road course experience. Sonoma was my only race (started 39th, finished 21st). It's going to give me a challenge. We feel like we're going to run OK. There's a lot of pressure on us now. We're going up there, and Kodak's headquarters are just an hour or so up the road, so we want to try to do a good job for them and have a decent run. The No. 1 thing we're going up there for is to survive. Being a rookie up there, it's going to be easy to get in trouble, so I want to keep the car on the track and just have some good strategy. I feel like our racecar is good enough where we can race our way through the pack and be competitive but more than anything we need to finish the day and get experience."
WHAT MAKES A GOOD TEAM CLICK? "I really feel like it takes every person on the team believing in each other, nobody is pointing fingers and everybody is doing their part of the job the best they can and believing in each other. We've been running poorly of late but right now the guys still believe in each other. We just had our weekly meeting and we reviewed what we did and where we're going and we just need to keep sticking together. I think that's the biggest thing. A team that can overcome the troubles and hard times and not start pointing fingers at each other and just keep believing in each other. We all got to this point in Cup racing, whether it's changing tires or driving cars or crew chiefing by having success. We all feel like we've earned our way here, and we just need to stick together. Nobody ever said it's easy, but everybody needs to keep working together."
HOW MUCH OF YOUR TIME IS DEVOTED TO TEAM CHEMISTRY? "A lot really, especially when we're running bad. That's one thing I can do to keep the team headed in the right direction. Just spending time with the guys, going out to eat dinner, hanging out at the shop, just anything I can do. Race weekend I'm in the trailer, not in the motorhome. Just anything I can do to show them I'm behind them and they're behind me. We're all going in the same direction, and we've all got the same goals. We just keep plugging along."
HAS THE TRANSITION FROM TRUCKS TO CUP BEEN TOUGH MENTALLY? "It's definitely been the hardest thing I've ever done in my racing career, probably my whole life. I knew Nextel Cup racing was going to be hard. I knew it was going to be challenging. I'm glad we're going to another racetrack this week after running poorly. I'm glad we don't have a weekend off to dwell on it. I enjoy the schedule. I enjoy going to the track every week. The last month or so our team has been in a terrible slump and we can't hardly do anything right. We're running poorly, and it's hard mentally for sure. I doubt myself. After the race it's like 'what are we doing wrong? Am I doing the job? What's going on?' We all know it's hard, especially as a rookie driver and coming to these places for the first time it's going to be hard. I'm positive when we get to these tracks for a second time and my crew chief and myself get our chemistry right, I think we're going to be just fine, but it can be hard mentally and it can wear on you."
WHAT'S THE TOUGHEST PART ABOUT RACING ON A ROAD COURSE? "From what I've learned so far with the testing we've done and having Sonoma under my belt, trying to be disciplined. What I mean by that is not overdriving the car, letting the car do your work for you, don't be charging the corners, don't be locking the brakes up. If you just stay on the track all day and don't make any mistakes you're going to have a decent run on the road courses. A lot of guys start driving aggressively and that's when you make mistakes and have problems. You've got to be disciplined as a driver. You know you can only drive in the corners so deep. If you drive in any deeper you're going to lock up your wheels and spin out."
HAVE YOU ALREADY STARTED LOOKING TOWARD NEXT SEASON? "Somewhat, but not quite just yet. We've had discussions the past month or so about next year. About what we can do, maybe some Busch Series efforts to get more experience, but right now we're looking to finish this year off strong. We feel like we've got some tracks coming up we're really going to do good and we've got some cars built that we're really confident about. We feel like the last dozen or so races we can excel, put some strong runs together and get going."
HAS THE PENSKE SOUTH TEAMWORK IMPROVED? "It's been pretty good. I don't think we're where we need to be yet. We're making improvements. I was encouraged by the 2 and 12 guys when they came over after I got into the wall in practice. Obviously that's what teams are for, to rally together when one of us is having a problem. That's going to make us stronger. I think we could be a little better for sure. I would say the 77 and 2 car share pretty much everything. We're not quite to that point with Ryan and the 12 bunch. If I've got a question or if I'm struggling I can go to Ryan and he'll try to point me in the right direction and give me some pointers, especially if it's on driving and things like that. We tested Watkins Glen together last week, and it was my first time to test. It was really nice working with Ryan. He was giving me some pointers on how he was braking, accelerating, things like that. It really helped me out. Everybody knows that Ryan and Rusty don't get along the greatest, but I do. I get along with all those guys really good. We're all getting along pretty well. We're making progress with it."
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF WATKINS GLEN COMPARED TO SONOMA? "You're turning right and left and you've got some elevation, but really it's an entirely different racetrack I thought than Sonoma. You carry a lot more speed. You're really going fast. It's a fast, open road course, where as Sonoma seemed like a point and shoot road course. You really slow down, point and drive off whereas Watkins Glen you want to really keep your speed up and carry your momentum through the corners. It's fun. I enjoyed it. It looks like it's pretty easy to get in trouble, especially through the esses. It's really narrow up through there with guard rails on both sides of the track. It's a fun track. I seemed to keep up to speed there, so I'm looking forward to getting there."
COMMENT ON YOUR RAYBESTOS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR STANDING "I've been real disappointed. Kyle is doing what we expected to be doing, 20th or so in points, top 10s here and there. That's exactly what I and the 77 team expected to do this year and we haven't quite been able to hit on it as well as Kyle has. We've been struggling a little bit. We've had some races where we've had some really good runs and we've been able to lead some laps and look pretty strong, but a lot of those races either I screwed up or we had something happen to keep us from having a real good finish. I'm disappointed. That rookie title means a lot to me and it still does. It's going to be really hard for us to claw our way to the top. It's going to take a handful of top five finishes to overcome that points lead that Kyle has right now. I'm not saying we can't do it. It's just going to be tough. The way Kyle is running, he's not going to have bad days. It's going to take a combination of us really good and him having some poor runs. Hopefully we'll tighten up a little bit. It's been fun. He's doing a great job. We just haven't been executing on our end of it. I wish we were doing a little better."
COMMENT ON RACING MOMENTUM "It's pretty incredible what Tony's been able to do here lately. I tested at Watkins Glen a week ago and Tony was up there and he was the fastest car there, too. Look for him to be strong again this weekend. Right now myself and the 77 bunch are struggling a little bit and we've got to do something to get out of this rut. Right now, guys like Tony and some of those guys up front every week don't feel like they can do anything wrong. They've got a real positive attitude and mentally they're going to every track with their chins up in the air. They know they have the car to beat every week. That's one thing I've learned throughout my racing career. How you are mentally really has a big effect on how you're going to run on race day. When you've got a good attitude and you have a lot of confidence, you're going to run good on the racetrack. If you go there feeling like you're already beat, you are. That's one thing that's hard when we're having these bad times and we're struggling is keeping a positive attitude and to stay focused and not be discouraged. I've tried to put last week behind me and be optimistic about the upcoming race."